Communicator of the Week: George Osborne

The refugee crisis in Europe has dominated the British media this summer. Arguably the coverage reached its peak with the harrowing pictures of the body of 3 year-old Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, featuring on multiple newspaper front pages. Until then the media had been reporting numbers killed and, despite individual stories of suffering, it all seemed so distant. The images of little Aylan galvanised many more people into exclaiming loudly that ‘more must be done’.

Despite spending £1 billion helping Syrian refugees in camps in the Middle East its clear the UK government recognised a need to do more - and be seen to do more. This despite the much lauded German government spending a third less in direct aid to Syrians over the past few years. The problem for any government when faced with a fast moving policy challenge is to get the response right; ensure it isn’t an ill-thought-through knee jerk reaction; and communicate it with clarity.

The man for a challenge of this nature is the government’s line to take deliverer extraordinaire, George Osborne, who has the brilliant talent of communicating key messages without sounding like a robot. The Chancellor appeared on the BBC’s flagship news programme the Andrew Marr Show to announce the UK would take in thousands more Syrian refugees but at the same time rethink how the international aid budget is to be spent while also arguing for military action in Syria. At a stroke Osborne satisfied the demands of three distinct audiences with one policy. It was the right thing to do but was also clever, moved the media narrative on from finger wagging towards the government, and nullified a broad range of political opponents.

In a media appearance lasting roughly twenty minutes Osborne never strayed from two basic, fundamental building blocks to any good piece of communication which are: know who your audience is and why you are communicating with them; and know what your messages are (or what are you going to say). For that George Osborne is my Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.

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